The Urban Development Corporation (UDC), notes the article published in the Gleaner of Saturday, May 4, 2013, under the headline “UDC blocks Little Goat Island project, irks developers”, and wishes to place this matter in perspective.
The Corporation which has management authority of the Hellshire Hills and Goat Islands in St. Catherine anticipates prior consultation by any potential developer, for property which it owns. This was not the case in the instance of the Old Harbour Development Area Committee (OHDAC).
As part of the efforts to protect the rich biodiversity that is found within the Hellshire environment, the Corporation has over the years, along with various stakeholders engaged in a combination of environmental monitoring and public education activities. Cognisant of its responsibility and the ever growing national threat of deforestation to support the charcoal trade, the UDC has engaged an arm of the national security forces to be a part of this process. As such, the Goat Islands has been identified as the suitable base from which this operation can take place.
With respect to the OHDAC proposal, we wish to reiterate that the UDC was only approached about this project in November 2012, after the community group had secured the funding and at which time; the Corporation was well advanced with the arrangement mentioned before.
As part of our commitment to stakeholder dialogue and community involvement, the UDC met with OHDAC, at which point information outlining the minimum requirements of the UDC by the funding agency was requested and should have been provided by March 31, 2013, this is yet to be fulfilled. As the public may be aware, the UDC has management oversight of Hellshire Hills and Goat Islands which is a part of the Portland Bight Protected Area (PBPA) and for which activities are directed by the Hellshire Environment Management Plan. The PBPA spans the parishes of St Catherine and Clarendon as delegated by the National Environmental and Planning Agency (NEPA).
We continue to pursue the highest principles of stewardship in the management and protection of the environment and we are committed to continued dialogue with our valued stakeholders for the development of the nation’s resources within the context of this mandate.
In this case, the UDC must make a determination of the best use of the assets under the Corporation’s management, which in the instance of the Little Goat Island is the one supporting national security.